Consumers have been the missing link in the U.S. economic recovery and are likely to remain so absent a major change in sentiment.
Despite the seemingly endless stream of Wall Street economists who believe the U.S. is about to snap out of its malaise, most Americans think the economy is bad and getting worse, according to several recent surveys.
One of the more glaring examples of how strong pessimism has become is Gallup's U.S. Economic Confidence Index. The measure gauges the difference between respondents who say the economy is improving or declining. The most recent results are not good.
Fully 59 percent say the economy is "getting worse" against just 37 percent who say it is "getting better." That gap of 22 percentage points is the worst since August. The index carries a sampling error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.
Those numbers come amid a moribund retail sales climate, with March showing a 0.3 percent decline, worse than even the modest 0.1 percent uptick the Street had been expecting. Consumer prices showed only modest 0.1 percent gains across the board, while producer prices were down 0.1 percent.
Gross domestic product likely grew little if at all in the first quarter, with the Atlanta Fed's latest forecast anticipating a 0.3 percent increase.
Those waiting for consumers to step up to the plate, however, had better be patient.
"There's a clear feeling through the campaign that helps explain what the data don't tell us," Hamrick said. People have "a frustration with the lack of underlying momentum and vitality" in the economy.
Indeed, other indicators besides the Gallup survey tell the same story.
A gauge called the Money Anxiety Index, which measures uncertainty and financial anxiety through a variety of economic indicators, is at its highest level since September. Also, the Real Clear Politics average of attitudes on the economy shows 66.1 percent of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track.
Credit to CNBC